Art, Hip Hop, and NYC Culture Aficionados Globally Mourn the White Wash of 5Pointz

 

Updated 5:00PM EST December 2nd, 2019: Please note property owner/New York real estate developer Gerald Wolkoff was ordered by Judge Frederic Block to pay $6.7 million to the 23 named artists and approximately 45 murals which were accounted as permanently destroyed in the overnight whitewash of the historic graffiti art area known globally as “5Pointz.” Artists worldwide were previously organizing a petition for restitution and landmark rights. Wolkoff was found guilty by a civil jury of violating VARA–the Visual Artists Rights Act in not giving the arts community any notice of the removal, and further considering the luxury condos set to be built in the area were planning to appropriate the name/cultural value of “5Pointz.”

 

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IMAGE CREDIT: SNACKISH

 

“This is a win for artists’ rights all across the country. This is a win for the visual artists and their protection.” – Renee Vara to ArtnetNews (Katherine McGrath, journalist)

 

Read more on the update from Architectural Digest here.

 

and the artist’s previous landmark petition update from dna-info here.

 

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VIDEO CREDIT: RIKI SAKAI & RYAN RESKO

 

Waves of emotion have flooded art, Hip Hop, and cultural communities worldwide as the historic 5Pointz in Queens, New York; known as a mecca to some and creative dreamland to many, was suddenly white washed overnight less than one week ago.

 

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IMAGE CREDIT: THE NEW SCHOOL FREE PRESS

 

The sprawling warehouse in Queens adjacent to MoMA Ps. 1 has transformed over 12 years and is home to over 1,500 artists from around the world. As a result of NYC re-zoning efforts, building owner Jerry Wolkoff plans to demolish the building and erect high rise condominiums in its place.

IMAGE CREDIT: THE NEW YORK TIMES

 

Despite Wolkoff’s claim that white washing overnight under police protection was a measure to avoid the “torture” of watching the pieces torn down brick by brick, many perceive it as a rather cruel and unnecessary attack. Especially as some note, since the pieces could have been photographed or extracted before demolition; providing added opportunity for finance and appropriate closure.

 

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IMAGE CREDIT: BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

 

The white wash and announcement of demolition have come in the immediate wake of a collective of writers (also known as graffiti artists) and enthusiasts circulating a petition for ownership of the property and rights to preservation.

View here The Guardian’s article for more before and after shots of 5 Pointz

View here more details & Wolkoff’s comments in The New York Times article

 

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IMAGE CREDIT: ART LAW PODCAST

 

Many feel the hostile actions taken against this visual arts mecca were done on the heels of a constant targeting of the Hip Hop community and its historic vulnerability to gentrification and industrial commercialism. In particular graffiti writers, whose colorful street-kissed hieroglyphics have arguably been the longest existing element of the culture—-and alas one of the most co-opted, under-recognized and unprotected.

 

VIDEO CREDIT: BEN B, TONY SILVER & HENRY CHALFANT

 

That now Hip Hop is a global billion dollar matrix yet vast amounts of its architects remain unknown and uncompensated or left in a silenced trail of cultural exploitation, makes the layer of the overnight white wash as well as the naming of only 23 artists in the lawsuit settlement, bittersweet to say the least.

 

VIDEO CREDIT: FASIM BARCELONA & HENRY CHALFANT

 

View here The Wall Street Journal article for development plan details

View here 5Pointz origins and RIP tags in The New School article

 

By graffiti culture standards 5 Pointz became known as a “permission wall” heaven, the antithesis of the high-risk origin culture of aerosol art that had Black and Brown youth in various areas of New York City making history on walls, train cars & numerous sites long before the grace of gallery canvases and fame of high fashion merchandise. Graffiti art became more heavily politicized, criminalized and affected by urban planning initiatives. Many writers violently lost their lives for the artform, never saw their skills manifest further in the art world or witnessed Hip Hop culture take off without them.

 

An artist works on his graffiti on the Five Pointz building in Long Island City in Queens in New York

BEP1H5 An artist works on his graffiti on the Five Pointz building in Long Island City in Queens in New York

IMAGE CREDIT: RICHARD LEVINE + ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

 

The 5 Pointz site eventually became an international art museum visited by thousands every year and captured for authenticity by major brands. Locals and tourists alike were able to take in the visuals freely even from high in the air, as a view of the location greeted daily riders of the number 7 train between Queens and Manhattan. For an artform that was born of a chaos theory and highly undocumented in its inception, every mecca and evolution is worth landmark status. Never forget.

 

Ottoo Brand Artivism-PADER salutes the legacy of 5Pointz.

 

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